Cape Lookout National Seashore


Best known for the towering lighthouse covered in black and white diamonds, the Cape Lookout National Seashore is a 56-mile stretch of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, spanning from the Ocracoke to the Beaufort Inlet. Three pristine barrier islands make up this national seashore- North Core Banks, South Core Banks and Shackleford Banks.

Accessible only by a private boat or ferry, this incredible ribbon of sand hosts unparalleled fishing, shelling and a working lighthouse. The undeveloped cape allows for true back-to-nature camping, features a renovated lighthouse with keepers quarters, a boardwalk to the beach and daily ranger programs and facilities in the summer. There are no guarded beaches or maintained roads which preserves the shoreline in pristine and serene nature. For those seeking to discover the Cape’s history, remnants of old gun mounts are visible on the ocean sidewalk between the rock jetty and Cape Point. Many visitors come to the National Seashore to view the black and while diagonal checkerboard patterned Cape Lookout Lighthouse. A landmark since 1859, it is now maintained by the National Park Service, who has rehabilitated the lighthouse tower to allow for public access Wednesday through Saturday.

The visitor’s center, found near the South Core Banks ferry dock, has a shaded pavilion in the boardwalk connecting it to the area adjacent to the keepers quarters. The keeper’s quarters have been renovated and include new exhibits.

The Cape Lookout Light Station Visitor Center and Keepers Quarters Museum is open to the public April through November. Exhibits focus on lighthouse history and early shipwrecks and rescues. A bookstore features items related to the National Seashore and also carries bottled water and insect repellent.

In addition to its lighthouse, Cape Lookout National Seashore includes adjacent Shackelford Banks, site of the abandoned fishing village Diamond City, with large dunes and wild Outer Banks ponies. North and South Core Banks, both noted for wonderful shelling and fishing, are open April through November. Picturesque Portsmouth Village, found at the northeast end of Core Banks, is a 250-acre uninhabited island community dating from 1753 and is preserved as a National Historic Site.

A Visitor’s Center, located on Harkers Island, is open year-round except from December 25 through January 1. Exhibits tell the story of the island communities, the Lifesaving Service and other local history. An indoor theater offers two short films on a rotating schedule. The bookstore features books, tapes, videos and children’s items related to Cape Lookout National Seashore. Public restrooms and nearby picnic areas are available and are wheelchair accessible.

All visitors should remember this is a remote, natural territory with no fast food, limited freshwater access and no lifeguards. Visitors and campers, remember to take whatever is needed to eat or drink, sun and insect lotions, hats, shoes and to bring out all that you carry in, including your trash.

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